Journey to AIS – Pamela McAlexander

From Running My Own Business to Joining the Team at AIS

For 18 years my husband and I ran a very successful home inspection business in Maryland. In late 2016 to early 2017, I had the pleasure of dealing with a couple that were looking to buy a home that required renovation work. One aspect of our business involved doing the inspection on a property to help a client get a better idea of the scope of the project they were getting ready to undertake and help them to navigate the process of selecting a contractor and moving forward from there with their renovation loan. This process can be very daunting, it requires a level head, an understanding of the construction market, and a patience for dealing with contractors that may or may not be what I like to refer to as “user friendly”. I say this tongue in cheek as we dealt with so many different contractors, all with differing personalities, and of course a wide range of pricing. This particular client often sought out my guidance on how best to handle the different contractors, how to word things, often checking in to make sure she wasn’t being too unreasonable. It really all boils down to how you respond to things that will either make or break your relationship with your contractor. In the end, the client didn’t end up going this route and just bought the house outright, but a relationship started from moment one of dealing with them. What I did take away from that entire transaction was that here was a person, who like us, was also self employed, and running a very successful business as well. I’m naturally a friendly and outgoing person, and in our business dealings, we had a conversation that was more along the lines of personal. The client asked me what I’d done professionally prior to running my husband’s home inspection business. My response? I was involved in all levels of Human Resources for about 10 years prior to working with my husband. And that’s when something clicked in our relationship.

Who is this client I was just telling you about? One of my team members, one of my business partners, and the President of Antony International Solutions, Angela Antony. Who knew that within 2 years of talking over the phone for her own personal transaction, that we’d be talking about our business goals together and I’d be joining with her and our Vice President of Operations and Finance, Kristin Pantoja, and that we’d all go into partnership together. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because this whole thing has been a journey in and of itself. When Angela and I had that personal conversation that day (and what seems so long ago), she jokingly responded to what I did prior to working with my husband with another question. I’ll never forget what she asked, “So would your husband kill me if I stole you away from him and you came to work for me?” Honestly, I thought she was joking, but as she started to tell me about her company and what they do, I have to say I was intrigued. However, my husband wouldn’t kill her if she took me away, he’d kill me for leaving. I kindly told her that I couldn’t leave my husband’s business, but that at the time we weren’t that busy and if she needed any help, I’d be more than happy to throw some hours her way here and there, in the capacity of a contractor. Well, she reached back out to me several months later, after she’d already closed on her house, had her last baby, and asked if I was serious about having some “extra time on my hands”. At the time, we’d planned a family vacation and I told her I’d touch base with her upon my return and we’d take it from there.
So in June of 2017, we met, things clicked, and I immediately started working with Angela and Kristin as a contract recruiter. It was fun, it felt good to get back into the HR aspect of things, and it made me feel like I was again doing something productive. I was able to juggle working for my husband and for Angela for about 4-5 months and then, as things started to slow down around the holiday’s for AIS, it timed out perfectly as I wasn’t sure I could keep going with both businesses. That gave me a couple months of a break, with a commitment on both our parts, that after the new year, we’d touch base again, and talk about picking things back up. 

Fast forward to February, 2018. I reached back out to Angela as my husband and I decided to retire from his business of 18 years. We weren’t sure what we were going to do, but traveling was definitely on our minds. We knew that we no longer wished to live in Maryland, so the traveling would involve seeing where we did want to relocate to as well. I started back up with Angela and basically picked up where I’d left off. That’s the luxury of a remote working opportunity, especially from a contractor perspective. After a couple weeks of being back, I’d thrown out the question to Angela on whether she’d ever thought of putting us on payroll vs. being 1099 contractors. It was definitely something to think about. 

In March, my husband and I took a long weekend and found a wonderful area in South Carolina that we wanted to move to. We put in a contract on a house, had a contract on ours back in Maryland, and we were all set to close on both properties at the end of that month. And then the unthinkable happened, my husband had 2 massive strokes and we weren’t sure he was going to make it. He spent a week in the hospital, had major surgery and pulled through. And you know what was the most memorable? I still had a job working with Angela, I had an amazing support group at AIS throughout the whole process, and because I was a week away from closing on our house, packing up the trucks to move, and my husband was still in the hospital at that time, they were waiting for me to reach out and ask for help and they’d be there. But you know what, I’m not one to ask for help. And when you’re so used to working alone, it’s easy to forget that you have a team of people that have your back. I remember telling them all, “I got this, it’s ok.” But it wasn’t ok. It was one of the most stressful times in my entire life that I’d ever had to go through. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends and family all jumping in to help, I really believed at the time that I had it all figured out. But I’m not one to want to inconvenience anyone and I felt like had I taken my AIS family up on their offer, I would be doing just that, inconveniencing them. Looking back on this situation now, I truly wish I had taken them up on it.

Well, we got all settled in, my remote working office was all set up in our new house, and I was ready to dive back into work. And that’s just what I did. I’m a workaholic by nature, and so it was so easy to pick up where I’d left off. And things had really taken off at AIS about this time. We were at a point where we were interviewing for an intern and then as summer progressed, we were ready to hire another recruiter. 

I loved what I was doing and more importantly I loved the companies that I was supporting. I think the hardest part for me working in this type of an environment was that I was always used to being an individual contributor and we were a team. I know that won’t make much sense to many of you, but being a team (and working as one) is so key to the success at AIS. You see, Angela built this company using a particular methodology she coined Flex Recruiting, and this methodology only works efficiently and effectively if it’s followed to the letter. Well, being an individual contributor my whole career, basically had me in the mindset that my way has worked all these years and it would keep on working….NOT! Remember when I said we were a team? Well, due to this methodology, any one of us could step in for the other at any given moment, last minute even. It would be seamless to our clients, and it wouldn’t require any amount of time spent “bringing someone up to speed”. Well, think about what a nightmare I created by acting as that individual contributor. I was creating exceptions to our practices all the way around. It was making it nearly impossible for someone to just step right in behind me. Little did I realize the damage I was doing, simply by thinking I was overservicing our customers- it’s what I did best. 

At this point, you’re probably thinking what’s so wrong with that mindset or that way of thinking? And honestly, it’s simply because I wanted to keep them forever. My thought process, coming from a place of being a former business owner, was that the better you service them, the longer they stuck around. Well, it doesn’t work that way in the contracting world. You can’t go into every contract with that mindset or you’ll set yourself, and your team, up for failure. There has to be consistency, and best practices that enable all of us to treat all of our clients very well and still get the job done (which in our line of work means to fill their roles for them). We’re not in it for the long haul – unless they have a real need for that. For the most part, they have roles to fill, and that’s what we’re hired (or contracted) to do- fill them. Angela would often tease me about being on “Pam Island”. At the time I didn’t find it funny, nor did she, but in the end I came to understand what that meant. I wasn’t alone in what I was doing, I was part of a team. I couldn’t do things “my way” as it clearly didn’t work out in the long run. But understand, in the short term, it was comfortable, it’s what I knew to do, but boy would things snowball when I continued to deviate from the methodology. I put myself through six solid months of hell before I finally gave up and gave in to the way we teach our team to do things, the AIS way and following all of our best practices. It didn’t have to be that hard on me or anyone else for that matter, I made it that way.

Now, fast forward to the end of 2018, and Angela approached Kristin and I to become business partners going into 2019 with her. There is so much involved in taking everyone from a contractor status to a full time W-2 status. There was a lot to think about as well, like payroll frequency, the offering up of benefits, having to pay in Federal, State, FICA, and Unemployment, and creating even more structure with employee related items going into 2020, like having to set up an employee handbook and having procedures in place for performance appraisals and corrective actions. It’s a huge undertaking, especially if you don’t have the right people in place (and that includes your accountants and attorneys). Well, I believe Angela made the right decision in the people that she strategically placed in each of their roles at AIS. Every person that we’ve brought on board, and that is still with us today, have all been instrumental in our growth as a company. We have truly been a team. The dedication and commitment that Angela has to our staff, and our contractors, is reflected in the time that she gives to each and every one of us (and it’s no easy task, especially dealing with someone like me who is as hard-headed as they come). But I’ve come to realize that you can alleviate a lot of pain when you catch things early on – like not fully utilizing a person’s strengths, or trying to put a square peg in a round hole by having someone in a role that maybe they’re not the right fit for. 

If I have learned anything in my time here at AIS, it’s that you can never over communicate. Well, when it comes to emails I can, but that’s not what I’m talking about. One thing that Angela has always stressed is to keep one another in the loop. Don’t wait for meetings to bring things up or provide a status update (it just makes meetings take that much longer). Knowing that you can trust the people you work with, to have your back, to help you grow, to know that they genuinely care about you and what’s going on in your life is a tremendous gift and a wonderful work environment. But I must say that I don’t think any of this would be possible today were it not for the Flex Recruiting Methodology that we adhere to. It truly takes some getting used to, but once you open up to it, it certainly makes your life a lot easier! Thank you AIS, and Angela, for allowing us to continually work to have a cohesive team that can be there for each other, that grows stronger and stronger by the day, as this is an important part of how we do business here at AIS.